Poetry Out Loud Rules & Resources



  • Grade Level: Only currently enrolled students in grades 9-12 are eligible, with an exception made for 8th-grade students participating in a 9th- through 12th-grade class.

  • Citizenship: Competitors at the state and national finals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a valid tax identification or Social Security number. Tax identification or Social Security numbers are required to receive prizes, including cash payments or travel awards. Students are responsible for verifying their eligibility.

  • State Finals: A student may not advance to the state finals without competing in a lower-level competition.

  • Homeschooled Students: In New York State, homeschooled students may register to compete independently. A preliminary competition will be held for all independently registered students.  The winner will move on to compete in the semifinal in their region.

  • School Not Participating? Students unable to participate at a local school should contact the NY State Poetry Out Loud coordinator to discuss other opportunities for inclusion in the state’s official competition.

  • Repeat Champions: Only National Champions are not eligible to compete in subsequent years.


  • Schools must hold a competition of at least two high school students to select their champion and runner-up. If that champion or runner-up is unable to attend the next level of competition, the third-place student may compete.

  • Evaluation: Students must be judged according to the Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria from the Teacher’s Guide.

  • Rounds: School competitions may involve one, two, or three rounds, but each student may recite only one poem in each round.


  • Schools can send one or two students to compete at a regional competition.

  • The winner and runner-up at each regional POL competition will compete in the New York State Poetry Out Loud Final.

  • Both the regional competitions and the New York State final will include three rounds of recitation. All participants will recite in the first two rounds. At regional competitions with 10 or fewer competitors, all students will recite in the third round. At regional events with more than 10 competitors and at the state final, only one-third of the students (those with the highest scores at the end of round two) will recite in the third round. (see note)



  • Poem Order: The order in which the poems are recited is up to the student, but poem order may not be switched once given to Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

  • Poems: For each competition, students are required to recite at least one poem that was written before the 20th century and one that is 25 lines or fewer. However, one poem (for example, Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”) can fulfill both criteria at once.

  • Judging: Rankings are based solely on evaluation sheets submitted by judges. Judges should not convene to discuss performances during the competition. Judges may not reconsider their scores after they are submitted.

  • Scoring: Scoring is cumulative. The scores from all rounds are added together to determine the winner.

  • Ties: In the event of a tie, the tied student with the highest overall performance score will win; if that also results in a tie, look to the highest accuracy score. If scores remain tied, consider having students pick one poem to recite again as a separate score to break the tie.

  • Props: Students may not use props or wear costumes during their recitations.



  • Download a POL Teacher’s Guide with all the official rules and judging information, along with tips for teachers, lesson plans, ideas for publicity, and more.

  • Want some simple ways to incorporate POL and memorization and recitation into your classroom? Here are some easy tips to get you started!

  • If you are in the NYC area and want to plan a Poetry Out Loud writing program, contact T&W at workshops@twc.org.

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